Ukiah tri this past weekend -- in other words, my official one-year triathlon anniversary.
Remember Lake Mendocino and how much it scared me a year ago? It's nice to come back and not think about drowning. Asthma, however, was another story. The smoke in the photo was from a fire in Lake County. It's burned more than 4,000 acres since Friday and is 50 percent contained, last I checked.
But race organizers said there was no smoke in the valley, so the tri took place as planned. And I soon discovered Ukiah is either (a) people's very first tri ever, or (b) a wind-down, end-of-the-season race for everyone else. If you're in the latter category, Ukiah then becomes a competition to see who has trained the least. Conversations typically go something like this: "I haven't [swam / biked / ran] at all since Vineman!"
And because of this mutual lack of training, it is completely OK to spend the night before the race at a winery blending party with fellow triathletes, doing things such as:
I won that hat in the raffle. Hey, I may not see a podium, but who cares when you can get a free hat, right? Ha!
Perhaps not surprisingly, even though I stayed at a motel literally five minutes from the starting line, I barely made it to the water in time for my wave the next morning. And upon entering the water, I discovered my swim cap was sealed shut, and when I tried to rip it open, I tore the entire back of the cap. And since there was no time to ask for a replacement, I had to strap it to my head with my goggles and try really hard to ignore the fact that it was awkwardly flapping open.
The water was choppier than normal. And the sun was blinding. And since I missed the pre-race meeting, I had no idea which direction I was supposed to swim. I tried to follow the group, but bright pink swimcaps look remarkably similar to bright orange buoys, especially when you're squinting through drops of water. But before I knew it, the swim was over, and I was stripping off the wetsuit and getting on my bike.
As usual, a million people passed me. And the first person I passed (in fact, one of a grand total of five) was a 15-year-old girl on a pink beach cruiser. (Hey, at least I passed her.) I played leapfrog with a guy from Texas who used Texas as an excuse for hating hills. I saw monks in flowing mustard-colored robes walking along the side of the road. I cheered for people I knew, most of whom were -- of course -- already on their way back while I was still headed to the turnaround. (Note to self: Work on cycling.)
As I left T2, a friend started pacing me, but I was too confused to recognize her at first and spent several minutes wondering: Who the hell is this woman running with me and why does she keep talking to me? She asked me how I was feeling. I said: "Like there's something stuck up my butt."
Her response: "Well, whatever it is, now is not the time to let it out."
After the race, we hugged and I thanked her. I also ran into my swim coach, whom I later discovered was the top overall female finisher. And then I saw this guy:
He was sitting on the ground in T2, bellowing like a donkey because his left calf was cramping so badly. Meanwhile, his friends were laughing hysterically and trying to convince me to film him with my phone. I'm only semi-horrible and took a photo. (I did wait until the bellowing stopped.)
Of course, what's a race without the celebratory post-finish meal? After I packed up, I went to Jyun Kang, a vegan restaurant in the City of 10,000 Buddhas, home to a Chinese Zen Buddhist temple.
And after the meal, which was absolutely delicious, I found myself in the middle of a fang sheng ceremony, with monks releasing pheasants.
Nice way to spend an anniversary, no?
And the race results weren't half-bad, either.
T1: 3:17 (with a wetsuit)
T1: 2:36 (no wetsuit)
T2: 1:14 (no shoe change)